The Secret of Sleep

Contributor: Alun Williams

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The old man who worked on the fourteenth floor had no name. I guess his mother gave him one, but that was some time ago and no one knew what it was or what he did.
We all had our jobs, our little compartments and we all had name tags too, just so we didn’t forget, except for the old guy. He didn’t have an office of his own, not that we knew about. We couldn’t ever find out where he worked, except that we knew it was on the fourteenth floor. Once, we put a chalk cross on every door on the floor and wrote the names of all the staff who worked there. He didn’t work in any of them but each morning he arrived, disappeared down the corridor and reappeared when it was time for lunch.
Harvey Goldblum followed him one time. He came back and said that the old guy, we called him Arthur, went to the third bench on the Bethesda Terrace, folded his jacket and lay down and slept for thirty four minutes before returning to his non-existent office and his non-existent job. Each of us took turns following him after that. Arthur followed exactly the same routine every lunch break and seemed to sleep through the noise of the city for exactly thirty four minutes. When it was my turn to follow him, I watched him fall asleep and wished that I too could sleep as easily and as well as he did. He seemed to reach a peak of total calm. I hated him for that.
No one at the office wanted to confront him. Administration thought it was the responsibility of human resources, who in turn thought it was payroll’s responsibility. Payroll said security were the ones who should handle it, but they felt that without any evidence to back up any action, they might be sued, so they sent a memo to all departments asking for a list of all employees’ names and security id numbers. They thought that by eliminating names to numbers they could find out who the mysterious old guy was. Unfortunately they found another sixteen members of staff who weren’t supposed to work there and all hell broke loose!
They never did find out his secret. Arthur continued to come in every day and carried on taking a thirty four minute nap on his lunch break. We decided to let him continue. Confrontation is not one of the main attributes of a data processor’s functions and one day we thought, if we live long enough and beat the boredom, we could all sleep like Arthur.

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Alun Williams resides in Wales and is no relation to either Tom or Catherine Zeta Douglas. Writer of Flash fiction and poetry he resides as maxieslim and maxwell allen on sites such as Critters-bar and Scrawl. Published in Yellow Mama, Pure Slush and Palehouse to name but a few. Loves noir and Charles Bukowski.
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